MILAN/STOCKHOLM/PARIS, Dec 5 (Reuters) – Europe’s major telecoms operators and an emergency services lobby on Monday urged Brussels to protect mobile and fixed networks from power cuts, according to a letter reviewed by Reuters, while as concerns grow about a loss of telecommunications networks during widespread outages.
Europe is facing potential energy rationing and blackouts following the war in Ukraine, testing key services such as emergency calls and infrastructure such as telecommunications networks this winter.
Some of Europe’s top telecom executives, including the boss of Orange, have recently raised concerns about this.
The joint letter sent on Monday is the first official step by the European Telecommunications Network Operators (ETNO) and the European Emergency Numbers Association (EENA) to put pressure on the executive body of the European Union to he intervenes.
ETNO represents former telephone monopolies such as Germany’s Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE), Spain’s Telefonica (TEF.MC) and Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI), while EENA represents more than 1,500 representatives of emergency services in 80 countries.
“If telecommunications networks were to experience planned outages, citizens would risk not having access to communications services for the duration of the outage, including emergency communications,” the letter signed by the chiefs said. of EENA and ETNO.
In the event of rationing during the winter, certain services such as hospitals, police departments and food production facilities would be given priority under current plans to ensure the least possible impact in the event of an outage.
Most public safety response points (PSAPs) – call centers linking emergency calls – are already designated as critical infrastructure, the letter says, meaning all reasonable steps would be taken to ensure they are not affected by power outages.
But emergency services and telecom operators fear that telecom infrastructure, which depends on connection to the electricity grid to function, may not be flagged as critical in some countries.
“We are concerned that telecommunications networks have not been placed on lists of priority sectors,” he said, calling on the European Commission to work with member states to guarantee the maintenance of energy supplies for networks in the event of electricity rationing to enable citizens to access emergency services. services.
EENA also outlined the concerns in a statement on its website after Reuters reported in September that telecoms industry officials feared the network could not cope with power rationing.
The letter was sent to Ditte Juul Jorgensen, Director General of the European Commission’s Energy Department, and his counterpart in the Communications Networks Department, Roberto Viola.
The Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
COSTLY AND FRAGILE
In Monday’s letter, EENA and ETNO also pointed out that any fallback solution was costly and fragile.
“In our experience, batteries and diesel generators placed in mobile base stations are an easy target for vandalism and theft, and maintenance costs are high,” the letter said.
“Extending the current limited back-up power supply of telecommunications networks is not an option, as not only would it be extremely expensive, but also such an extension would take years,” he said.
France, Sweden and Germany are trying to ensure the continuity of communications even if the power cuts eventually exhaust the backup batteries installed on the thousands of cellular antennas spread over their territory.
But currently there are not enough backup systems in many European countries to deal with widespread power outages, telecoms industry sources said.
Europe has nearly half a million telecom towers, and most of them have backup batteries to run the mobile antennas that last about 30 minutes.
Reporting by Elvira Pollina in Milan, Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm and Mathieu Rosemain in Paris; Editing by Josephine Mason and Jan Harvey
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